John Carradine and the Secret of Arthritis. Animation producer Gary Goldman told interviewer Adam McDaniel about using Shakespearan actor John Carradine as the voice of the owl in The Secret of Nimh (1982):
“Carradine arrived at Paramount Studios about an hour late. We rented their recording facility to record Mr. Carradine’s voice. When he arrived, he appeared to be intoxicated. We called his agent. His agent told us the Mr. Carradine suffered from acute crippling arthritis and that he was on pain killers. Since the recording session was in the afternoon he may have stopped for lunch beforehand. And, if he had a Martini, the combination of the drug and the drink would cause him to appear pretty much ‘sloshed’.
“His agent was right. So, we spent an hour and a half providing him with black coffee and asking him questions about his old Hollywood experiences. All of a sudden, he became dead serious and very sober. ‘Well, we better get on with this. You’re not paying me for an interview’. He delivered every line in one take. If we wanted alternates he would inform us that we have gotten the best that he had. No retakes, no alternates. Wow! Good thing he gave a great performance.
“One thing of particular interest, John’s hands really showed the pain of his affliction. His knuckles were over-sized and looked gnarled in the pose he assumed as he read his lines. When he shook your hand, he could not really clasp your hand properly. He joked,’”If you think my hands are bad, you should see my feet’. We all looked down at his neatly polished dress-shoes, imagining the condition of his feet and his discomfort in the confinement of the shoes.
“John Pomeroy used this fact about Mr. Carradine in the final design of the Great Owl’s feet and the way that the owl walked (with a limp). We also used a cracking sound effect as the owl rotated his head, before he spoke to Mrs. Brisby.”
At the time of recording his lines, the character was called Mrs. Frisby as she was in the book but with objections from Wham-O that manufactured the toy “Frisbees”, the name had to be changed to Brisby. Carradine was unavailable for retakes so editors had to search for Carradine using a word with a “B” sound and splice it in to the word Frisby.
The Bambi That Almost Was. The first complete treatment for Disney’s animated feature Bambi (1942) was written at the end of 1939 and had some significant differences to the final film. For instance, as children Bambi and Faline play in a sunny meadow but their play is interrupted when they are shot at (but missed) by hunters. Bambi and his mother are stalked by a hunter and as they flee a shot rings out and it would have shown her jerk in mid-leap and fall dead.
As Bambi wanders the forest crying for his lost mother, he hears what he thinks is her voice and runs toward it with great joy only to discover it is a hunter with a deer call who shoots him. Bleeding and gasping in pain, Bambi staggers back to the thicket where he was born. He begins calling for his mother again and falls down, apparently dead. His anxious father arrives to watch over him until the unconscious fawn begins to breathe once more.
After Bambi has grown up and after a forest fire carelessly started by the hunters has devastated the forest, Bambi’s father leads Bambi to a man’s charred cadaver, revealing that man is not the ruler of the animal kingdom but just another mortal victim. Walt fought hard for that sequence, that it was the presence of man that upset the balance of nature, but finally relented and removed it before it was animated.
Selick’s Nightmare. Because Tim Burton said “it would have put me in a nut house by now” to do the painstaking stop-motion animation by himself, he had the work done on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) by Henry Selick and 120 artists working in an old warehouse in San Francisco’s South of Market district where nineteen stages were wedged one after another. The budget was approximately twenty-two million dollars. They turned out only sixty seconds of finished film a week. Disney felt it was getting a bargain because the workforce and budget were significantly less than for a traditional Disney animated feature film.
“What Tim gave us was a very strong, beautiful story. The lead characters came right from his pen. But then he let us bring it to life,” Selick told Adweek magazine in October 1993. Selick felt that the story was actually about a mid-life crisis where even someone who is successful at what they do wonders what a different life might be like. “In the end, sometimes only by getting away from home can you really appreciate what you have there,” said Selick.
That Mother. In 1993 on Mother’s Day, the Cartoon Network had viewers vote for their favorite cartoon mom. The winner, beating out favorites like Wilma Flinstone and Jane Jetson, was….Roger “Race” Bannon, Jonny Quest’s bodyguard.
Poltergeist Tribute. At the 1982 San Diego Comic Con, Chuck Jones told the audience that the little bird in the feature film Poltergeist (1982) was named Tweety and the family’s name was “Freeling”. When Friz Freleng heard about this, he drew Sylvester the cat weeping over a tiny coffin containing Tweety and sent it to Producer Steven Spielberg.
Why Groening Likes Beavis and Butt-head. In a 1993 article in the L.A. Times newspaper, cartoonist Matt Groening who created The Simpsons responded to whether he liked Beavis and Butt-head. Groening stated, “I like Beavis and Butt-head. Anything that takes the heat off of Bart Simpson being responsible for the downfall of western civilization is fine by me.”
Talking Iago. In 1993 comedian Gilbert Gottfried talked to reporter Mike Cidoni about transitioning his character of the parrot Iago in the Disney animated feature Aladdin (1992) to the television series (1994).
“The film is out on videotape this week (October 1, 1993). They cut out the offensive to Arabs line (in the song Arabian Nights) so if Yasser Arafat wants to see the movie he can. It was political correctness. I’m a Jew so offending Arabs was never my main concern.
“For the TV series, Disney said, ‘Look, your parrot will have to be friends with Aladdin’. I said, ‘It doesn’t make sense’. They said, ‘You wanna be in the series?’ I said, ‘It makes perfect sense’.”